Iraq: GCHR’s 18th Periodic Report on Human Rights Violations in Iraq

14.09.21

This is the eighteenth report issued since January 2020 by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) that documents the human rights situation in Iraq. It sheds light on the ongoing targeting of human rights defenders, including journalists and Internet activists, as well as the arbitrary arrests that affect them, in addition to violations of media freedom, as well as military and terrorist operations that affect innocent civilians.

First anniversary marked of a prominent WHRD’s assassination   

The first anniversary of the assassination of a prominent woman human rights defender, nutrition and fitness specialist Dr. Riham Yaqoub (main photo), was marked on 19 August 2021. A year ago, she was killed by unidentified gunmen who fired rounds of bullets at her car while she was driving near the intersection of the commercial street in the centre of Basra, accompanied by her sister and friend, who were slightly injured when the car windows shattered. Her colleagues and other Iraqis recalled on social media how her life was filled with peaceful human rights activities, and noted her achievements in acquiring and disseminating scientific knowledge among people, especially women. They also emphasised that she stood against injustice openly and without fear.

GCHR demands that the Iraqi government make every effort to reveal the killers of Yaqoub and other civil society activists who lost their lives for their active participation in the peaceful popular movement that began in early October 2019 to demand comprehensive reform in the country.

Engineers attacked while peacefully protesting

On the morning of 09 September 2021, engineers demanding jobs organised a demonstration in the protest square near the governorate building in Al-Amarah, the capital of Maysan Governorate. The Riot Police assaulted them and arrested a number of them before releasing them on the same day. The demonstrators had closed the office of the Maysan Governorate Electoral Commission, which came "as an escalating step to demand that they be included in appointments, like the rest of the governorates," according to press reports. The Maysan Governorate Police Directorate issued a statement on the same day saying, "There are those who are trying to divert the demonstration from its peaceful path and demonstrate in front of the Independent Electoral Commission building, althought it is not concerned with their demands as they are oil engineers." 

GCHR had previously documented a similar attack on protesting engineers carried out by employees of the Maysan Governorate Police Directorate on 18 October 2020.

Family of kidnapped human rights lawyer attacked

On the evening of 02 September 2021, Hammoud Hattab Al-Heliji, the brother of the folk poet Jaseb Al-Heliji and the uncle of human rights lawyer Ali Al-Heliji, survived an assassination attempt carried out by two gunmen riding a motorcycle. On 12 March 2021, GCHR documented the assassination of Jaseb Al-Heliji, who made a great effort and raised his voice in protests in order to find his son Ali Al-Heliji, who was kidnapped on 07 October 2019 in Al-Amarah.

Reliable local sources confirmed that the reason for the attack is the family's continued support for the trial of those accused of the assassination of Jaseb Al-Heliji, as well as their continuous quest to know the fate of Ali Al-Heliji. On 24 July 2021, the Maysan Governorate Police Directorate announced the arrest of two participants in the murder of Jaseb Al-Heliji, months after the arrest of the first suspect.

Journalists and Internet activists attacked and arrested

Large numbers of Iraqi journalists fear for their lives due to an increase in targeted violence against the profession during the past two years, which led to some of them leaving their jobs. Despite the risks, the authorities have failed to implement measures to support journalists and protect the rights to freedom of expression both online and offline. In the past weeks, a number of journalists have been targeted for their work.

On 06 September 2021, a journalist and correspondent of Salah Al-Din Satellite Channel, Hamid Al-Jumaili (photo above), was killed by his son in their house located in the Al-Dujail district in Salah Al-Din Governorate, 60 km north of the capital, Baghdad. According the Iraqi security sources who gave an account to GCHR, "the authorities were able to arrest his son two hours after he committed his crime."